M A I N   N E W S

How a snag-hit VVIP helicopter grounded flights at Chandigarh airport 
Vivek Gupta & Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, November 20
Finally, it was the twin engine Eurocopter EC-145 that saved the day for industrialist and Kurukshetra MP Naveen Jindal on Monday when his helicopter landed under emergency conditions at the Chandigarh airport after developing a technical snag on Monday.

However, from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm (just about time when the airport closes for air traffic) Chandigarh airport officials were straining their every nerve to get the helicopter, lamely sitting on the short runway, out of the way. Flights, disrupted because of a single disabled chopper, had to resume.

One of the many techniques they employed was the great Indian ‘jugad’ trick, sources said. When it was realised that the copter had no wheels and that “dragging it away” would only damage the VVIP carrier, airport staff began trying on wheels of other helicopters. That did not help since every copter has its own wheels.

“We had to do something quickly,” said an airport official. Three outbound flights were on schedule and about 500 passengers were waiting to board their flights. “Had we pulled the copter on roughly, it would have seriously damaged its machine,” said the official.

When the ‘jugad’ wheels failed, officials made frenetic calls to the Pinjore Flying Club. Luckily, they had the wheels specifically suited for the Eurocopter. By the time the wheels were brought in and the helicopter cleared off the runway, it was time for the airport to shut operations for the day.

According to Director General of Civil Aviation records, there are 13 scheduled and 143 non-scheduled operators in the country, flying 1,189 aircraft and 299 helicopters of a wide variety with different design and operating parameters. “There are scores of variants and it is not possible for airports to have equipment readily available to cater to all models,” an officer said. “Perhaps the pilots could have informed the Air Traffic Control about their helicopter’s undercarriage configuration,” said the officer.

The runway belongs to the air force, which mans air traffic and emergency services. It has fixed an 8am-8pm window for civil flight operations at the airport. The copter took off around 4.50 pm from the Kurukshetra University ground with Jindal, Captain Col Anil Guliani, co-pilot Captain Sudeep and two others on board. It was scheduled to land at the VIP helipad at Rajindra Park next to Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat, but was forced to land at the airport at 5.32 pm after it developed a snag.

Col Guliani said they were approaching Chandigarh around 5.15 pm when they realised that one of the copter’s engines had failed. “We made immediate contact with ground staff at the VIP helipad at Rajindra Park next to the Punjab and Haryana Secretariat, our original destination, but we made a priority landing at the runway for safety reasons,” said Captain Guliani.





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